Skip to main content
What's on

Navigation

Building Ballet: from the Granite City to Glasgow

Hailing from Aberdeen, Scottish Ballet’s Technical Director Matt Strachan celebrates 25 years with the company after joining in 1998. We caught up with Matt to reflect on his career, from his days of working in the construction industry on building sites, to establishing his career in the creative arts sector and leading Scottish Ballet’s Technical Department.

Tell us about your journey towards joining Scottish Ballet in 1998

When I was a young, my mum used to take me and my sisters to His Majesty’s Theatre as much as she could and we would get to see a variety of different performances, I guess back then I was sort of ‘dragged’ along – but my opinion of theatre soon changed. I started working at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen as a casual member of staff. When walking through the door onto the stage, I looked up and realised the scale of everything – it all looked so impressive, that really captivated me.

One day, when I was working in the theatre on an amateur dramatic production, I was helping to set the stage – they ended up being short of a spotlight operator and asked me if I’d be up for filling in. I was happy to help! From this moment onwards they kept inviting me back to fill various different positions. I was working in the construction industry in the daytime, and then off to the theatre in the evening – through my two opposing workplaces I was able to see two very different walks of life and it really opened my eyes to the world of theatre. I was able to work with such inspiring, creative, and talented individuals. I eventually got offered a full-time job and so let the construction work go. I worked for the theatre in Aberdeen for four years before I decided it was time for a new challenge.

In 1998 I decided to apply for a job at Scottish Ballet. My sights were firmly set on working for the company because I’d worked with them previously on small scale tours and whilst they had been touring to Aberdeen and I knew it would be the best environment for me. Working in Electrics in the late 90s the technology was so different– what a journey we’ve been on! There have been so many advances since then and it’s really impacted the way we are able to work in theatre. We can do things with technology now that just weren’t possible in the earlier days. I’ve been with the company 25 years now, but things have never stood still. This industry is constantly evolving – no two days are the same, so it never gets tiresome and it’s always exciting to work here – it’s certainly made the last 25 years fly by.

Can you tell us a career highlight?

A Streetcar Named Desire is such a stand-out to me. Working with the designers on the intricacies of the set, including those distinctive lightbulbs (all 28 of them!) having to move up and down on stage, I remember thinking…how will we make that happen?! I had to build a whole new flying system to make this possible and I actually had to tap into some of my prior experience and skills from my days working in carpentry. That, combined with my knowledge of electrics and the support of colleagues, made it happen and I’m so proud of that. We’ve toured that show across Scotland, to London and the USA – I love taking that production on the road. It was really a bucket-list moment being able to take that show to Lewis and Orkney. On small-scale tours you’re often in a school hall or leisure centre, where you’re moving benches out the way and building a stage in a really limited space for the dancers to be able to perform. I love seeing locals getting a peek through the windows to see how we’ve been able to transform these community spaces into a fully functional stage for our full-scale productions. It’s brilliant being able to bring the same show that’s performed on the mainland to the Highlands and Islands. It enables our audiences to access performances without having to carve time for a lengthy journey to a city.

What do you enjoy most about returning to Aberdeen?

His Majesty’s Theatre – it’s brilliant and the staff there have a great work ethic and keep the theatre in such good order by paying attention to the detail in all that they do. The theatre itself brings some challenges, as it’s one of the smallest compared to some other touring venues we visit, but we are able to adapt things to make the shows happen, and they always end up looking great on the stage. It’s always an absolute pleasure to visit HMT. With Aberdeen as my hometown, I know the theatre so well and it allows me great inside knowledge. It’s a lovely building and a great environment to work in with brilliant people – both in the audience and behind the scenes.

What do you miss most about Aberdeen?

The ROWIE! I get my Dad to deliver a couple of dozen Aberdeen rowies (akin to a salty flat croissant) to me every so often – you miss them when you’ve moved away from home! It’s got to be a true well-fired Aberdeen rowie…the ones you get out with the north-east aren’t the same. I also miss being next to the sea. My Dad and sister, Anne still stay there so it’s really nice going back to visit.

What’s your favourite winter production?

I really like things, from a technical perspective, to be simple and effective. We’ve taken our production of The Snow Queen out on the road twice now and some learnings from the first experience of staging that show we later applied to simplify systems and make ourselves work much more efficiently for the next time we toured it, which is very satisfying.

When can we see Cinders in Aberdeen?

We’re really looking forward to bringing Cinders to Aberdeen this winter season, it looks spectacular and so opulent. We’re performing at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen from Wednesday 24 – Saturday 27 January 2024.

Related news

For Friends

People behind the scenes: Tamarin Stott, P-Med Lead/Rehearsal Assistant

People behind the scenes: Tamarin Stott, P-Med Lead/Rehearsal Assistant
Read more

Building Ballet: from the Granite City to Glasgow

Building Ballet: from the Granite City to Glasgow
Read more
For Friends

Bethany's final Ball

Bethany's final Ball
Read more